22
Jun
2018

Turnbull’s Questionable Energy Policy

Energy Policy Raises Questions About Turnbull’s Leadership

The debate on energy policy between the Coalition and Labor has seen both up to now adopting the same policy of reducing emissions of CO2 but with Labor supporting a much larger reduction. But we now we see an open split within the Coalition, with Abbott warning that a number may cross the floor and vote against the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). In Abbott on NEG he argues that the Turnbull government has conducted a “fundamental failure of process” that has been “stifling the proper debate that we should be able to have inside our party room”. He argues that the government has  spent an “enormous amount of time” negotiating with the crossbench, but warned the backbench was being ignored. “I reckon the government needs to spend a bit more time talking to the backbench. “Yes, the crossbench in the Senate is important. Don’t forget the backbench, because you are only in government because you’ve got a backbench that’s prepared to support your legislation”.

This is tantamount to a motion of no confidence on Turnbull.

It follows my letter published in yesterday’s Australian pointing out, under a heading implanted by the editor that  “Both parties fail national interest on energy policy”, and

The Coalition’s announcement that it will require annual reductions in emissions of CO2 from the electricity sector comes after news that global greenhouse gas emissions rose sharply last year as India, China, Brazil, Canada and Russia increased coal burning.

Under a Turnbull government, Australia will lose competitiveness as it is forced to reduce the use of cheaper power while these large countries and the US ignore the Paris agreement (“No guarantees with the new energy guarantee”, 19/6).

Yet it is scarcely surprising that, despite the proposed massive increase in government regulation by Prime Minister Turnbull, Labor wants to go further down the socialist track. Its target is to force increased usage of costly renewables to 50 per cent by 2030 by, in effect, imposing an indirect tax on coal usage.

In fact, under either party, such targets are likely to bring coal-burning to a much quicker halt as it becomes uneconomic to compete with government dictate.

Little wonder that Newspoll shows both major parties have over 50 per cent either dissatisfied or uncommitted. Your editorial rightly suggests we face “the seeds of economic ruin”.

Today, we see a letter by John Stone reflecting yesterday’s editorial in The Australian (see OZ Editorial on Crucial Policies) by offering what he describes as

… one criticism of your otherwise outstanding editorial (“Aspiring to greater heights in crucial policy contests”, 20/6)? — namely, the unmentioned elephant in the room. You rightly ask why, given its potential “advantages on crucial policy issues”, the government “seems to be failing in efforts to convince voters of its merit” — the most recent example being on border protection policy, where “the Coalition should be unassailable”. More generally, you “see far too little urgency and vigour in its advocacy”, with “an alarming torpor about the Coalition’s efforts”.

That unmentioned elephant is, of course, the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, whose performance (exemplified by his policy-wise directionless record in losing 14 seats at the last election) underlies each of your criticisms. The need for a new (or even restored) leader capable of addressing them has now become inescapable if we are to be spared the disaster of a Labor government after the next election.

There is no alternative.

The Australian also reminds us that, as recently as May, a Newspoll showed that “only 37 per cent believed the Coalition and Mr Turnbull would be better at maintaining energy supply and keeping power prices lower, compared with 39 per cent who backed Labor to deliver the ­reform. Almost a quarter of voters were undecided”.

In short, Turnbull and Minister Frydenberg are not only pursuing a bad policy but it’s worse than Labor’s in getting votes.

Developments in Ontario

My letter above refers to news that global greenhouse gas emissions rose sharply last year as India, China, Brazil, Canada and Russia increased coal burning. These countries, and many others, are not following the Paris Agreement proposing reduced emissions.

In fact, the recent elections in Ontario, Canada, which has about a third of Canada’s population and has the Canadian capital of Ottawa, resulted in a big swing against the so-called Liberals by the Progressive Conservatives(PC) and that group has now formed a majority government. It is led by a member of the PCs, Doug Ford, who defeated the previous PC leader by arguing against carbon reduction policies (see Ontario’s New Government is Sceptic). According to the attached article written by a journalist who is obviously a believer in climate change,Fordhas declared an end to carbon pricing in Ontario — no cap and trade, no carbon tax, no fuss, no muss, no nothing”.

Under Liberal Trudeau, Canada has become very much in favour of reducing emissions and the Paris Agreement. Whether the large swing against the Liberals in Ontario will spread to other provinces remains to be seen. But it is, as they say, a sign of the times and it may add to support for Abbott within the Coalition.

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